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Policing differences - perspectives from Europe
Jan Beek
,
Thomas Bierschenk
, and
Annalena Kolloch

The recent increase in the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers has made it obvious that Europe is changing rapidly, accelerating its conflict-ridden transformation into linguistically and ethnically more heterogeneous societies. The police are arguably one of the most crucial – and most discussed – state organisations that interact with an increasingly diverse clientele often labelled simply ‘migrants’. How to deal with differences based on culture, ethnicity and race – all highly problematic terms – has become a central issue of policing in the last decade. In this book, we look at everyday, often mundane, interactions between police officers and migrantised actors in European countries and explore how both sides deal with perceived differences. Many, if not most, anthropologists currently position themselves, in the field and in writing, with the victims of the police. In contrast, our contributors study the practices, discourses and beliefs of actors whom anthropologists do not as easily sympathise with – police officers. We believe that such an epistemological positioning, while often ethically challenging, is unavoidable for a nuanced understanding of policing. By adopting an ethnographic and multi-perspective approach, the contributors to this book study the possible course of action, perspectives and rationalities of both sides in these encounters. Our book presents empirically grounded contributions from various European countries, jointly developing a field of study and generating robust concepts in a highly politicised field, bringing together anthropology, criminology, history, sociology and linguistics.

in Policing race, ethnicity and culture
Perceptions and patterns in everyday police work in Germany
Nina Müller

Migration to Germany has profoundly affected the demographics of the country. This has implications for state institutions, whose positioning on issues such as diversity and self-perception and perception of others is problematised. The police present an interesting case to analyse: they are the most visible representative of the state in daily life and in everyday interactions with people. Also as an employer of the state, the police is the addressee of integration efforts, insofar as an increasing number of police officers now have a so-called ‘migration background’. This chapter presents initial empirical findings from an interdisciplinary research project which focuses on the organisational design of the police, its personnel and diversity management, the interactions between citizens and police officers, and their organisational culture in Germany since 2018. The ethnographic part of the project deals with the mutual relations and interactions between police officers and citizens in metropolitan neighbourhoods characterised by ethnically and culturally diverse structures. By examining everyday working life in four neighbourhoods in the federal states of Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia, we are investigating the extent to which the migration background of individuals – both police officers and citizens – affects the way they interact with each other in order to grasp what patterns of perception, interpretation and behaviour exist in the different locations. Settings such as proactively or reactively stimulated encounters on the street and within the police station are the focus. We also explore how individual and institutional practices are developed and transmitted within police personnel.

in Policing race, ethnicity and culture
Occupational socialisation and institutional guidelines
Jérémie Gauthier
and
Jacques de Maillard

Our chapter aims to contribute to the topic of police racism by showing how the dynamics of racialisation and racism are rooted both in the occupational experiences of French and German police officers and in their ways of describing reality. Based on data collected through several observational and/or interview-based studies conducted among police forces in France and Germany, our chapter follows the footsteps of a body of research that considers police occupational socialisation as the main variable explaining how police officers may embrace and pass on racialised patterns of perception. We make a distinction between racialisation, whose underlying logic is the production of racial hierarchies and the attribution of social and behavioural features to certain categories of the population (in the present case ethnic/racial minorities), and racism, defined as one specific instance of racialisation characterised by the hostile stereotyping of said categories, what we call the ‘temptation of racism’. Despite these shared patterns, the practices of police forces differ, as German police officers tend to be less prone to discrimination than their French counterparts. To explain this discrepancy, we shall see that institutional authorities differ significantly in terms of how they address the question of racism, both in their discourse and in their management methods, or even in the prioritisation of police tasks.

in Policing race, ethnicity and culture
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Ethnicity in statistics and the functions of nationalism
Rebecca Pates

Nationalist ways of thinking assign orderliness to the world when each person can be assigned to a (single) territory and ideally be moved to it. Maintaining the sort of order that policing requires is not prima facie nationalist, but police officers often use nationalist discourses in order to express imaginaries of nationalist orderliness. For the people they deal with are not only a threat to the moral or public order, but also to these assignations of belonging to the policed territory and the local orders. In this chapter, I shall focus of the functions of these imaginaries of nationalist belonging within police discourses, using ethnographic field work with police forces in Saxony and beyond.

in Policing race, ethnicity and culture
Ethnographic perspectives across Europe

How to deal with differences based on culture, ethnicity and race has become a key issue of policing in public debates globally. The public discourse is dominated by shocking news events, many of them happening in the US, but also in Europe. This book looks at everyday, often mundane, interactions between police officers and migrantised actors in European countries and explores how both sides deal with perceived differences. Taking an ethnographic approach, the book contributes to the development of a comparative and distinctly European perspective on policing. The study of the practices, discourses and beliefs of actors themselves is an epistemological positioning, while often ethically challenging, which is unavoidable for a nuanced understanding of policing. By adopting an ethnographic and multi-perspective approach, the contributors to this book study the possible course of action, perspectives and rationalities of both sides in these encounters. The book presents empirically grounded contributions from various European countries, jointly developing a field of study and generating robust concepts in a highly politicised field, bringing together anthropology, criminology, history, sociology and linguistics.

When language divides
Susana Durão

This chapter analyses the configurations of a transnational cooperation police programme for Portuguese-speaking African students in Portugal (PALOP). I show how the policy of Lusophony, which aims to promote the translation of late postcolonial differences, in practice produces spaces of othering and racialisation. In a learning context charged with national and historical references, the African cadets witness another side of the virtuous Lusophony. Based on historical and ethnographic data, I describe how despite the promised solidarity of the cooperation, the imperative colonial past still claims dominance, generating multiple ambiguities in the learning and social environments.

in Policing race, ethnicity and culture
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Authorising race - on police reproduction of difference
Ian Loader

In this chapter, I reflect on the relation of police–minority interactions to the contexts that condition the shape of these encounters and which the encounters, in turn, sustain. These are the context of law (the relation of ‘underground’ categories of race to supposedly race-neutral bureaucratic and legal processes); the context of work (the relation of police race-making to the tragic properties of the police mandate), and the context of inequality (the relation of situated police re-enactments of difference to the already existing structure and cultural representation of racialised injustice). My claim is that police action draws upon a system of racialised categorisation and puts its categories to work situationally, while also re-authorising and putting back into circulation social knowledge about racialised difference, as well as the generic idea that ‘race’ is and should be a relevant category for thinking about crime, ordering and justice.

in Policing race, ethnicity and culture
The Dutch CAS case and its forerunners
Paul Mutsaers
and
Tom van Nuenen

Centred on the idea that police forces are often a focal point for conflict in today’s societies, this chapter takes an interest in big data policing in Amsterdam as a contested development. Looking at the socio-technical preconditions of such new, algorithmic forms of policing brings to the surface that police forces employ certain grids of legibility upon the input they receive from communities, both by recognising only certain forms of input as legitimate, and by decomposing individuals into their predictive features. Against the background of a grim conflict between police officers and young Moroccan Dutchmen, the authors offer a selected description of three security innovations on the basis of the six months of fieldwork in Amsterdam that were part of larger ethnographic study of the Dutch police (2008–13).

in Policing race, ethnicity and culture
Ida Nafstad

‘Parallel society’ is a term with clear negative connotations, often used as self-evident without further need for explanation. In Northern Europe, the term has been used to describe a danger scenario – an unwillingness to integrate, a growing risk of disintegrated society, crime, ethnic enclaves and Islamic fundamentalism – and it has provided journalists, police and politicians with a ‘scientific’ term to forward anti-migration and anti-multiculturalism discourses. The term ‘parallel society’ (parallellsamhällen) is new to Sweden, but has lately been increasingly used in reports from the police, where it is framed as a force on its way to take over core societal structures in socio-economically vulnerable areas, such as criminal and private law, banking, housing and labour markets. The ambition of this chapter is to examine the content of the term ‘parallel society’ as it is used in reports from the police, and scrutinise this use considering notions of a punitive turn and the practice of categorisation of population groups in Swedish criminal policy and practice. By drawing on examples of a recent police operation in Sweden and the Danish ‘parallel society law’, I argue that the parallel society discourse might have consequences in terms of police work, by affecting how the police understand and thus act upon social problems and social phenomena, and that this is driven by categorising some population groups as the foreign ‘other’. By transforming social phenomena and problems into police questions, they are translated and understood as criminal problems, as are the population groups connected to the phenomena.

in Policing race, ethnicity and culture
Language differences and translation in German policing
Jan Beek
and
Marcel Müller

Our ethnographic research aimed at exploring the communicative practices of police officers in Germany when encountering speakers of different languages. However, we soon realised that they face similar communicative issues in many other encounters. Therefore, this chapter widens the focus, not only studying communicative practices when different ‘named languages’ are involved, but also exploring encounters involving differing language varieties, styles and registers; these differences are not grounded in nationality or culture but in the citizens’ class, community, state of mind and more. In these encounters, police officers routinely reach a sufficient level of understanding by mixing languages and language varieties, by using gestures, by relying on common-sense sequences of bureaucracy, and ultimately by employing the potential to use violence. Surprisingly, the main challenge – and the main source of misunderstanding – is not translation in a linguistic sense, but the need to translate complex everyday situations according to organisational guidelines and legal norms. Communicative practices are intertwined with ‘doing police’ – the challenge of translating between citizens’ expectations and organisational rationalities of the police.

in Policing race, ethnicity and culture